November 7, 2023

Jackson County Missouri Jail Site

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In 1841 a second jail was built on the site of the original log jail on 223 North Main. It was located on the corner lot where Truman Information Center is now located, just north of the historic 1859 jail. The Jail is a two-story brick structure with two basement prison cells.

Orrin Porter Rockwell was imprisoned in this jail in 1843, after he was accused of attempted assassination of Lilburn W. Boggs.

Boggs was shot May 6, 1842 at his house on south Spring Street in Independence by an unknown assailant. At the time of the shooting, Porter Rockwell was in Independence, he was there with his wife visiting family. Learning of the attempted murder Orson fled but was later caught and arrested in St. Luis and brought back to Independence.

Porter Rockwell suffered greatly in the jail. He was required to wear iron hobbles, slept on a small pile of straw and had no fire to keep him warm. He escaped with a fellow prisoner but was recaptured.

While in prison the Sheriff of the town, Sheriff Joseph H. Reynolds, tried to get Porter Rockwell to betray Joseph Smith. He wanted Porter to persuade Joseph Smith to come back to Missouri. The Sheriff said "You only deliver Joe Smith into our hands, and name your pile." To this Rockwell replied "I will see you all damned first, then I wont." When a dove flew into Porters cell he took it as a sign that Joseph was safe in Nauvoo.

While in jail Porter Rockwell would mess with the Missourians who held him captive by using a nickname their neighbors in Illinois game them: "pukes." Porter Rockwell made a pin hood, tied it to a twine, baited the hood with a chunk of corn dodger and hung it out the grated window and say he was "fishing for pukes".

The charges against Porter Rockwell for the attempted murder of Lilburn Boggs were dropped, but Rockwell was not released right away. He was then charged for escaping prison. Finally on December 13, 1843 Rockwell was released thanks to the help of his court-appointed attorney, Alexander Doniphan.


"Sacred Places, Missouri" by LaMar C. Barrett p. 61-64

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